What cell wall components are the best indicators for Miscanthus digestibility and conversion to ethanol following variable pretreatments?

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number67
Number of pages14
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Volume11
DOI
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018
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Abstract

Background: Energy crops including Miscanthus provide a storable, portable energy source which can be used to complement a wide range of products and energy generation systems. Miscanthus is predominantly used in Europe as a combustion material for electricity generation but also has the potential for biochemical conversion due to its high yield and low-nutrient requirements. The ratio of holocellulose (hemicellulose and cellulose combined) to acid detergent lignin (H:L) within the senesced material has previously been shown to indicate the relative suitability of Miscanthus accessions for thermochemical conversion. In this study, the ratio was assessed to examine its use as a selection aid for biochemical conversion. 20 highly-characterised Miscanthus accessions were saccharified using an enzyme mix to determine optimum sugar release. Nine of these accessions spanning high, medium and low H:L ratios were then autoclaved with dilute acid, alkali or water, and enzymically hydrolysed and fermented to produce ethanol. Samples taken throughout the process allowed assessments of released sugars.
Results: Enzymic degradation of the biomass showed a relationship between H:L ratio and glucose release, with high glucose release for high H:L ratio accessions and vice versa. Xylose release showed no such relationship. This relationship was maintained following pretreatments and enzyme saccharification, where compound analysis showed that following all pretreatments, accessions with high H:L ratios repeatedly had the highest releases of glucose, xylose and arabinose, and produced more ethanol. Release of all measured compounds increased with the pretreatment severity and ethanol yields from each pretreatment correlated with the respective glucose yield, providing assurance
that any inhibitory compounds generated were tolerated by the fermentation yeast. Strong correlations were also seen between glucose release, ethanol and cell wall components, with cellulose showing the highest correlations with ethanol yields for some treatments and H:L ratio with others.
Conclusions: The H:L ratio is a good predictor of ethanol yields and sugar release from Miscanthus in this study but individual components lignin and cellulose also correlate well, especially for hot water and mild acid pretreatments. In conclusion, use of the H:L ratio does not provide any advantages over the concentration of individual cell wall components for predicting sugar release and ethanol yields.

Keywords

  • Bioethanol, Biofuel, Biorefining, Cellulose , Dilute acid , Energy crop , Miscanthus giganteus , Hemicellulose , Lignocellulosic , Saccharification